5 Phenomenal Things About “Aliens”

movie_theatre - Phenom 5

James Cameron’s “Aliens” has the distinction of not only being one of the best science fiction movies of all time but also one of the best sequels ever made. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched this movie since its 1986 release, but I’m sure it rivals any other. So in light of my affection for this film I thought it deserved a Phenomenal 5 spotlight. Now obviously I feel there are many things to love about this film so I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but these five things about the movie “Aliens” are most certainly phenomenal.

#5 – The Ventilation Shaft Sequence


There are so many memorable scenes in “Aliens” and one my favorites is the great escape through the ventilation shafts. The creatures have made it through our survivors’ defenses and their last hope of escape are a long series of ventilation shafts that run out to the landing field. The bad thing is the aliens follow them in leading to a cramped and claustrophobic fight for survival. Cameron’s strategic camera adds an incredible degree of intensity to the sequence and James Horner’s pulse-pounding score amps up the tension. It’s a great scene with great edge-of-your-seat action.

#4 – Bishop


There is an assortment of cool characters in “Aliens” and one of my favorites is Bishop. He is a new model android that serves on the spaceship Sulaco. He accompanies Ripley and the marines as they investigate the lost communication with a colony. Lance Henriksen is perfect for the role. He constantly maintains a steady tone even when things quickly turn bad and he shines in every one of his scenes. And who can forget the part he plays in the final third of the film. There are many characters to love in “Aliens” and Bishop is one of the best.

#3 – The Colonial Marines

Aliens Marines

I remember as a young teen thinking that the Colonial Marines in “Aliens” were incredibly cool. Guess what, I still do. Sure they dabble in an assortment of stereotypes, but they still feature a variety of fun characters many of which offer some good depth. We see these layers peeled back when they realize the weight of the threat they face. Michael Biehn is fantastic as Corporal Hicks. Bill Paxton is perfect as the neurotic Hudson. I love Jenette Goldstein as the tough-as-nails private Vazquez. Apone, Gorman, Drake, Frost, etc. I love them all and each adds to the movie in their own way.

#2 – The First Encounter


There are a few movie sequences that I have watched so many times that I have them committed to memory. One of them is the first encounter between the Colonial Marines and the aliens. After tracking missing colonists to underneath a processing station, the marines are broadsided by a vicious and frightening attack. The buildup to the first encounter is dripping with tension. The costly firefight and the desperate escape that follows is exhilarating stuff. The entire sequence helps to open up and define the characters and their situation, and it remains one of my favorite science fiction movie scenes of all time.

#1 – Ellen Ripley


It’s unfortunate that we don’t get more strong and dynamic female movie characters like Ellen Ripley. She showed her toughness in the first “Alien” picture, but it’s in the sequel that we see her grittiness and resolve on an entire new level. Ripley is dismissed at first by the macho Colonial Marines. But it doesn’t take long for her to show her strengths and she can dish it out with any of them. Sigourney Weaver mixes a tender motherly instinct with a hard-nosed will to live resulting in what I think is one of the best female leads ever put on screen.

So there you have it. Those are my five phenomenal things about the movie “Aliens”. So what do you think about them? See something I missed? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this list and the movie in the comments section below.

23 thoughts on “5 Phenomenal Things About “Aliens”

  1. Love this film! Right along with these five phenomenal things about it. So glad you noted that initial encounter with the xenomorphs. A simply awesome sequence. Which reminds me, I need to queue up James Cameron’s director cut once more.

    • Thanks man. I’ve had this written for a while, but you kinda inspired me to go ahead and post it. Absolutely love everything about Aliens and that first encounter is just amazing. Tension, action, you name it.

  2. You pointed out some of the best things about my all-time favorite movie. It’s hard to imagine that such a groundbreaking, intelligent, non-cliched sci-fi film (well, actually it established a lot of what are now considered cliches, such as the space marine) was made by the same guy who would later waste his life with four Avatar films. I guess James Cameron was just a different guy back in the ’80’s and early ’90’s when he made this and the Terminator films.

    What I love about this movie is that you can show it to literally ANYBODY, even people who hate science-fiction and/or action films and they still have a good time with it and admit to its great quality. In my opinion its the pinnacle of the franchise in terms of both artistic merit and entertainment value. The great supporting cast and Ripley’s protagonist are some of the biggest reasons for its success. All the marines are likable in some way — yeah they have their stereotypes, but they still act like real people and have memorable personalities. Their dialogue just sounds so natural and not rehearsed in any way (many of Paxton’s wisecracks were ad libbed).

    I do get annoyed though when people occasionally (not often, but sometimes) refer to this as a dumbed-down action version of Ridley Scott’s original horror classic. Other than the great writing, characterizations, and outstanding action cinematography and special effects, Aliens also has a lot of “artsy” mise-en-scene techniques and subtle cinematic touches most don’t consciously notice or appreciate when watching it. A lot of these have to do with character blocking, choreography, and framing, the best example of which is the way Hicks and Ripley are always shot moving in unison or in coordination with each other when they’re in frame together. These and other touches always indicate a connection between them, and sometimes Newt, implying a loose sort of familial bond without ever going the tacky route of having Hicks and Ripley make out or openly proclaim they’ll all start a family together. That’s great cinema — it’s a film that SHOWS connections between characters and tells us about them rather than TELLING, or explaining through clumsy dialogue what is going on.

    This quintessential ’80’s sci-fi action film is so much more than just a good genre film. It’s just plain excellent cinema at its finest 😀

    • Great words and you won’t hear any arguments from me. It’s amazing how well this movie has aged. It’s a testament to just how cutting edge it was. But as you say, Aliens is so much more than just sci-fi action. And also as you say, it was made by a director who once made good films and not garbage like Avatar.

      • One thing that hasn’t changed is that Cameron still has a vast ego that must always be expanded and scratched — except decades ago he used to channel that passionate self-absorption into making great movies and now he just does it to dominate the global box office and show off that he can school any other blockbuster with the lamest cliches around. I got to hand it to him in one sense though — he does school Sandler, Bay, Ratner, and any other artistically vapid sellout “filmmaker.” Cameron has dominated twice with entirely “original” IPs (they’re not that original but both Titanic and Avatar were non-sequels/reboots/re-imaginings).

      • I agree with what you’re saying, but I really hated Avatar. It was a technical marvel but the story was atrocious. He has shown skills though and I really wish he would get back to that.

        Thanks for the great comments!

  3. These are also five reasons why Alien 3 fails. No scene close the the ventilation or first encounter sequences, no colonial marines, no Bishop, just a Doctor convicted of sex crimes, and Ellen Ripliy’s whose story arc from Aliens is eviscerated in the first five minutes of Alien 3,

  4. Heh! That’s cool, it really is a great movie and I’m long overdue a re-watch. One of my favourite things about Aliens was actually left out originally but restored to the special edition – the sentry gun scenes. I remember these being really tense and they encapsulate the relentlessness of the creatures these humans are up against.

  5. Great phenom 5 here Keith! It’s been ages since I saw this but I could see why this film still holds up to this day. Ellen Ripley as #1, right on, you go girl! 😀

    • Thanks Ruth. I watch this movie a couple of times every year. I never get tired of it. It’s a great film that has definitely aged well. And what a great assortment of characters none better than Ripley.

  6. Such an awesome post. My brother and I had a bootleg of this that we recorded off the TV and watched every single day of our summer holiday when I was about 14.

    • Oh gosh, you are so right. Sooo many quotable lines. He such a great character who is hilarious, annoying, and really cool all in one. He’s such a fun part of the film.

      Thanks for the comments!

  7. I love this movie! Heck I think it’s superior to Scott’s original Alien, I love the script, acting and direction. I’d watch it every winter, don’t know why but I love watching it on a cold night, maybe because film’s setting is dark and cold. Sure the effects looks dated compare to today’s films but the action rocks! Also, I love James Horner’s score for this film.

    • Everything about it works. Absolutely everything. I watch it a couple of times each year and never get tired of it. You’re right, some of the effects do look dated, yet it still holds up remarkably well. Plus it’s back when James Cameron actually made good movies!

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